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How California’s New Environmental Regulations On Desalination Affect Carlsbad’s Plant

Pipes under construction that will eventually move water between treatment fa...

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Above: Pipes under construction that will eventually move water between treatment facilities at the Carlsbad desalination plant, September 4, 2014.

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As the Carlsbad desalination plant gets ready to go online later this year, there are 15 proposed desalination plants currently being evaluated by California water officials, according to media reports.

Last week, California became the first state to adopt guidelines for building and operating the plants, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. No other country has guidelines on building or operating desalination plants, according to the newspaper.

The new rules include precautions on how water is taken into the plants to limit sea life from being harmed in the process, and guidelines on how leftover brine, after the desalination process is complete, should be returned to the ocean.

“This amendment will provide a consistent framework for communities and industry as they consider desalination, while protecting the coastal marine environment,” said State Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus in a press release.

Bob Yamada, lead engineer for the Carlsbad desalination plant for the San Diego County Water Authority, said the new regulations are the most environmentally protected rules adopted in the world.

“The state of California went through a seven-year process,” Yamada told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday. “That process accumulated last Wednesday with the adoption of these regulations.”

Yamada said the Carlsbad plant, which took 12 years to plan, will have to comply with the new regulations.

Matt O'Malley, legal and policy director for San Diego Coastkeeper, said it’s preferred that desalination plants collect seawater through subsurface intakes, which lowers salinity and better protects marine life.


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